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Raul Castro – Economic changes must be gradual

Posted on Saturday, 07.05.14

Raul Castro: Economic changes must be gradual

HAVANA — President Raul Castro reiterated Saturday that Cuba’s program
of reforms will remain cautious and gradual, despite recent
disappointing GDP numbers that show the country’s already-struggling
economy slowing.

Days after Cuba downgraded its 2014 economic growth forecast by nearly a
percentage point, Castro told parliament during the first of its
twice-annual regular sessions that the reforms “have great complexity
but are advancing” at the necessary pace.

“This process, to be successful, must be conducted with the appropriate
gradualness and be accompanied by the permanent control of different
party and government structures at all levels,” Castro said in a
25-minute speech.

“Gradualness is not a whim, much less a desire to delay the changes that
we must make,” he added. “On the contrary, it is about a need to ensure
order and avoid gaps that would lead us directly to mistakes that
distort the proposed objectives.”

Foreign journalists were not allowed access to the one-day session at a
convention center in western Havana. His comments were broadcast later
on state TV.

Vice President Marino Murillo, Castro’s reforms czar, said a nascent
project to eliminate Cuba’s unique dual currency system is continuing
and warned islanders that monetary unification itself will not increase
their purchasing power.

“For that to happen, we must produce more,” Murillo said.

Cuba’s economy minister announced at the end of June that officials were
lowering their GDP growth expectations to 1.4 percent for the year, down
from a previous forecast of 2.2 percent for 2014 and from 2.7 growth
recorded last year.

Castro and other officials say the reforms do not amount to an embrace
of capitalism, but are rather an “update” of Cuba’s socialist model to
survive in the 21st century global economy.

Cuba has decentralized state-owned enterprises, legalized home and used
car sales and let hundreds of thousands of people open or work for small
businesses in the private sector.

Parliament also considered a report Saturday from the comptroller’s
office on its attempts to root out corruption. No specifics were given
on the nightly newscast.

Official media reported that Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez said
Cuba’s food imports have reached $2 billion a year, but the government
believes the island could produce 60 percent of that.

Cuba’s parliament typically meets twice a year, once in the summer and
again in December. Lawmakers also called an extraordinary session this
spring to approve a law that seeks to attract badly needed foreign

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